Words and photographs by Ambassador Lita Monaghan.

I recently went on a short road trip from Washington to Oregon to take my son to a scholarship competition at my alma mater, Linfield College.  With several activities slated for prospective students, my husband and I knew we’d need something to pass the time. We brought along our beloved Kona Rove ST bikes to find some gravel in the area.

I searched on ridewithgps.com to see which routes the locals liked to do.  A seemingly popular route was dubbed the “Perry-Roubaix,” a pun on one of cycling’s oldest races in Northern France, the Paris-Roubaix, famous for really rough terrain and cobblestones.  Fortunately, the Perry-Roubaix, in the heart of the Willamette Valley, shared nothing else in common with its famous counterpart (save maybe an offering of the region’s finest wines?).

We started in the little town of Amity along a peaceful undulating road until we came to the first turn off and the start of the “rough terrain.”  The only thing really tough about this section was that fresh gravel had been put down and not compacted yet, so it was a little “mushy” to ride through.  Regardless, the surrounding farms and dark clouds keeping their distance offset the minor nuisance of the road conditions. At the end of this first gravel section, a sweet neighbor dog came over to greet us, as if to say, “hey, enjoy the rest of your ride!”

After giving “Bella” some love, we continued down a section of road flanked by more farms and rolling hills.  We could see some dark clouds in the distance and kept our fingers crossed that they would stay away. For a short period of time, the skies above us cleared even more to reveal some blue and sunshine.  The next gravel section was much easier to ride on as it was compacted by all the heavy farm machinery traversing the various pastures.

We eventually found ourselves riding in some dark clouds and getting rained on a little bit as we entered the town of Perrydale of “Perry-Roubaix” fame.  We rode along Perrydale Road, when we came across a much welcomed sign that read, “PAVEMENT ENDS.” Okay! We hit another beautiful section of well-groomed gravel.

The skies started to clear again and that little bit of rain produced a rainbow, albeit a faint one, along our route.  It served as the cherry on top of what was already a beautiful ride with a great mix of terrain. The relative flatness of the route was a welcome change of scenery as my other recent gravel rides have included plenty of climbing. This also allowed for gorgeous views across the landscape for miles and miles.

As we rode through this part of the Willamette Valley, not too far from Linfield College, I was in awe of the views.  I can only imagine how much more beautiful it is when things really start to blossom and turn green. And then I was a little bummed that I never once experienced any of this during my four years attending college as I only started riding bikes a few years ago.  So what exactly is the lesson learned here?  I learned that there is no time like the present to make up for lost time and that there are probably a lot of cool places to ride that I either took for granted or never considered before when I lived in the area during college.  So while I secretly hope my son chooses to go Linfield, even if he doesn’t, I’ll be back down there to discover more amazing routes.